A confidential NATO report obtained by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) found that Taliban’s growing financial power could make it immune to international pressure to negotiate for peace.
The report, written by researcher and journalist Lynne O’Donnell, was completed before the start of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“Unless global action is taken, the Taliban will remain a hugely wealthy organization, with a self-sustaining funding stream and outside support from regional countries,” it states.
The Taliban “has achieved, or is close to achieving, financial and military independence,” the reports states, allowing it freedom to renege on its key commitments to the Doha agreement signed with the U.S. for peace in Afghanistan.
“That financial independence enables the Afghan Taliban to self-fund its insurgency without the need for support from governments or citizens of other countries,” the report warns, based on interviews with senior Taliban members, Afghan officials, and foreign experts.
This would also allow the Taliban to continue their ties with other terrorist groups, such as the Al Qaeda.
Taliban’s sources of revenues include drug production and trafficking, illegal mining and exports, with the group raking in as much as $1.6 million in the last financial year which ended in March 2020, RFE/RL says, citing the report.
A Taliban member interviewed for the report said that China and the U.A.E. were the biggest buyers of their mining products as profits grew from $35 million in 2016 to $464 million in 2020.
The financial aspects of the group are being overlooked by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the new military chief and son of late founder Mullah Omar, the NATO report claims.
Mullah Yaqoob’s “aim is to achieve independence for the Afghan Taliban, that is, to exploit earning potential in regions under his military control to enable him to operate without the need of outside financial, political, or military support.”
He also holds “both financial and military” power and if he is able to win over more Taliban leaders, “he is likely to be formally confirmed as the Taliban’s supreme leader” the report said.
The NATO report also said that the Taliban entered the peace negotiations in “partnership with their traditional allies” such as the Al Qaeda.
The Taliban, by “their words and actions” have shown that they will not break-off their ties Al Qaeda or other militant organisations, the reports adds.
If the talks succeed, Afghanistan will likely “once again become an ungoverned space,” the report said, harking back to a time before Sep. 11, 2001.
The report advises NATO to “stop the Taliban’s wealth-generating activities” and asks them to extend sanctions to include their financers and associates, along with a worldwide embargo on illicit Afghan products.